Herb in Focus: Chamomile
Posted on 17 November 2016 by Leonie Satori
Easily overlooked in modern Herbalism, chamomile is a medicinal herb with a large number of active constituents and numerous benefits for the digestive and nervous systems.
Chamomile in a Bygone Era
Historically, chamomile was used for aiding problems of the head, it was said to "purge the head and emptie it of superfluous humour and other grosse matter". It also has a history of use for fever, inflammation, melancholy, phlegm and liver and spleen problems. Growing quite easily from spent flower heads, chamomile is also known as a garden 'healer' and is reputed to aid the recovery of ailing plants located nearby in gardens.
A distinctly fragrant flowering herb, many of the medicinal components of chamomile are contained in the volatile oils, making it not only beneficial as a herb tea and herbal tincture, but also as an essential oil for topical use.
The chamomile commonly used in Herbal Medicine is also known as German chamomile, botanically Matricaria recutita or Matricaria chamomilla. The name matricaria comes from the term 'matrix', meaning mother or womb and this is attributed to its use for 'women' problems, including morning sickness and menstrual imbalances associated with emotional upsets.
Chamomile as a Medicinal Herb
The digestive system is where chamomile shines as a therapeutic herb. The volatile oils in chamomile provide soothing benefit to those with digestive upset and constituents such as azulenes (which give the essential oil a blue colour) provide anti-spasmodic relief, making a cup of chamomile tea the best medicine for tummy aches, wind and gas, especially where there there is associated anxiety. Modern Western Herbal Medicine makes use of chamomile for nervous dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome and due to the easy access of this herb in a tea format, it is a great remedy to keep at home for digestive upsets.
Particularly suited to children's digestive complaints, chamomile is also beneficial when there is constipation or diarrhoea, helping to normalise digestive secretions from the liver and soothing irritation through the gut. The bitter compounds in chamomile also make it beneficial for digestive headaches or tension headaches.
Modern Phytotherapy has identified many constituents in chamomile that are beneficial for digestion, one of these constituents, bisabolol shows a strong anti-inflammatory action, it is also antibacterial and helps to reduce spasms in the digestive tract. This constituent in chamomile also helps with promotion of healing in the stomach and mucous membranes, making it the ideal herb for ulceration in the digestive tract and for those with health conditions such as colitis.
Chamomile is also good for nausea associated with nervousness and makes a great travel time tea for overseas flights. The volatile oils in chamomile also act as relaxants for the nervous system and can benefit those with insomnia, hyperactivity or nervous tension. Some texts suggest that it is the high concentration of calcium in chamomile that make it useful in nervous conditions.
One of the often forgotten characteristics of chamomile is its anti-allergy benefit, also attributed to some of the constituents mentioned above, which block histamine production, making it an excellent herb for allergic asthma, hayfever and sinusitis. The anti-inflammatory and healing qualities of chamomile also make it useful as an eyewash for inflamed eyes.
Chamomile is by far one of the most versatile herbs for parents to keep in their herbal medicine collection. For children, chamomile is suitable for use as a simple tea for crying, whining and whinging, allow the tea to cool and it is suitable for alleviating anxiety and discomfort of teething and colic. Added to baby's bath water, chamomile can help to soothe sore bottoms, help healing of cuts and abrasions and promote a restful sleep.
Chamomile as an Essential Oil
Holding a prime position in our range of certified organic essential oils is German chamomile oil, this bluish coloured essential oil, with its distinctive floral herbal smell is beneficial for many skin conditions. The anti-inflammatory actions of this herb are concentrated in the essential oil, other constituents help with wound healing and make this an ideal first aid remedy. These qualities in chamomile essential oil make it beneficial for all sorts of skin complains, including mastitis, eczema, nappy rash, varicose ulcers and acne.
"May all your wishes come true" is what a bunch of chamomile flowers communicates according to floriology, the language of flowers. Chamomile grows easily in most soil types, and will tend to self-sow, sometimes just from composted tea bags, in the most unexpected places. Not to be overlooked again, chamomile is a simple herbal remedy for many types of digestive, nervous system and skin health concerns.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her Naturopathic clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.
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